May 20 2011

On This Day In History May 20

This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.

Find the past “On This Day in History” here.

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May 20 is the 140th day of the year (141st in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 225 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day on 1896, the six ton chandelier of the Palais Garnier falls on the crowd resulting in the death of one and the injury of many others. The falling of one of the counterweights for the grand chandelier resulted in the death of one person.

This incident, as well as the underground lake, cellars, along with the other elements of the Opera House even the building itself were the inspirations of Gaston Leroux for his classic 1910 Gothic novel, The Phantom of the Opera.

The ceiling area, which surrounds the chandelier, was given a new painting during 1964 by Marc Chagall. This painting was controversial, with many people feeling Chagall’s work clashed with the style of the rest of the theater.

The Palais Garnier, known also as the Opéra de Paris or Opéra Garnier, but more commonly as the Paris Opéra, is a 1,600-seat opera house on the Place de l’Opéra in Paris, France, which was the primary home of the Paris Opera from 1875 until 1989. A grand building designed by Charles Garnier in the Neo-Baroque (or “Baroque Revival”) style (it is also said to be of the related Second Empire style), it is regarded as one of the architectural masterpieces of its time.

Upon its inauguration during 1875, the opera house was named officially the Académie Nationale de Musique – Théâtre de l’Opéra. It retained this title until 1978 when it was re-named the Théâtre National de l’Opéra de Paris. After the opera company chose the Opéra Bastille as their principal theatre upon its completion during 1989, the theatre was re-named as the Palais Garnier, though Académie Nationale de Musique is still sprawled above the columns of its front façade. In spite of the change of names and the Opera company’s relocation to the Opéra Bastille, the Palais Garnier is still known by many people as the Paris Opéra, as have all of the several theatres which have served as the principal venues of the Parisian Opera and Ballet since its initiation.


The Palais Garnier was designed as part of the great reconstruction of Paris during the Second Empire initiated by Emperor Napoleon III, who chose Baron Haussmann to supervise the reconstruction. During 1858 the Emperor authorized Haussmann to clear the required 12,000 square metres (1.2 ha) of land on which to build a second theatre for the world-renowned Parisian Opera and Ballet companies. The project was the subject of architectural design competition during 1861, and was won by the architect Charles Garnier (1825-1898). The foundation stone was laid during 1861, with the start of construction during 1862. Legend is that the Emperor’s wife, the Empress Eugénie, asked Garnier during the construction whether the building would be built in the Greek or Roman style, to which he replied: “It is in the Napoleon III style, Madame!”

 325 – The First Council of Nicea – the first Ecumenical Council of the Christian Church is held.

526 – An earthquake kills about 300,000 people in Syria and Antiochia.

685 – The Battle of Dunnichen or Nechtansmere is fought between a Pictish army under King Bridei III and the invading Northumbrians under King Ecgfrith, who are decisively defeated.

1217 – The Second Battle of Lincoln is fought near Lincoln, England, resulting in the defeat of Prince Louis of France by William Marshal, 1st Earl of Pembroke.

1293 – King Sancho IV of Castile creates the Study of General Schools of Alcala.

1497 – John Cabot sets sail from Bristol, England, on his ship  Matthew looking for a route to the west (other documents give a May 2 date).

1498 – Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama arrives at Kozhikode (previously known as Calicut), India.

1521 – Battle of Pampeluna: Ignatius Loyola is seriously wounded.

1570 – Cartographer Abraham Ortelius issues the first modern atlas.

1609 – Shakespeare’s sonnets are first published in London, perhaps illicitly, by the publisher Thomas Thorpe.

1631 – The city of Magdeburg in Germany is seized by forces of the Holy Roman Empire and most of its inhabitants massacred, in one of the bloodiest incidents of the Thirty Years’ War.

1802 – By the Law of 20 May 1802, Napoleon Bonaparte reinstates slavery in the French colonies, revoking its abolition in the French Revolution

1813 – Napoleon Bonaparte leads his French troops into the Battle of Bautzen in Saxony, Germany, against the combined armies of Russia and Prussia. The battle ends the next day with a French victory.

1845 – HMS Erebus and HMS Terror with 134 men under John Franklin sail from the River Thames in Britain, beginning a disastrous expedition to find the Northwest Passage. All hands are lost.

1861 – American Civil War: The state of Kentucky proclaims its neutrality, which will last until September 3 when Confederate forces enter the state.

1862 – U.S. President Abraham Lincoln signs the Homestead Act into law.

1864 – American Civil War: Battle of Ware Bottom Church – in the Virginia Bermuda Hundred Campaign, 10,000 troops fight in this Confederate victory.

1873 – Levi Strauss and Jacob Davis receive a U.S. patent for blue jeans with copper rivets.

1875 – Signing of the Metre Convention by 17 nations which led to the establishment of the International System of Units.

1882 – The Triple Alliance between Germany, Austria-Hungary and Italy is formed.

1883 – Krakatoa begins to erupt. The volcano’s final and most notable explosion occurs on August 26.

1891 – History of cinema: The first public display of Thomas Edison’s prototype kinetoscope.

1896 – The six ton chandelier of the Palais Garnier falls on the crowd resulting in the death of one and the injury of many others.

1902 – Cuba gains independence from the United States. Tomas Estrada Palma becomes the country’s first President.

1916 – The Saturday Evening Post publishes its first cover with a Norman Rockwell painting (Boy with Baby Carriage).

1920 – Montreal, Quebec radio station XWA broadcasts the first regularly scheduled radio programming in North America.

1927 – Treaty of Jedda: the United Kingdom recognizes the sovereignty of King Ibn Saud in the Kingdoms of Hejaz and Nejd, which later merge to become the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

1927 – At 07:52 Charles Lindbergh takes off from Roosevelt Field in Long Island, New York, on the world’s first solo non-stop flight across the Atlantic Ocean. He touched down at Le Bourget Field in Paris at 22:22 the next day.

1932 – Amelia Earhart takes off from Newfoundland to begin the world’s first solo nonstop flight across the Atlantic Ocean by a female pilot, landing in Ireland the next day.

1940 – Holocaust: The first prisoners arrive at a new concentration camp at Auschwitz.

1941 – World War II: Battle of Crete – German paratroops invade Crete.

1949 – In the United States, the Armed Forces Security Agency, the predecessor to the National Security Agency, is established.

1949 – The Kuomintang regime declares martial law in Taiwan.

1956 – In Operation Redwing (shot Cherokee), the first United States airborne hydrogen bomb is dropped over Bikini Atoll in the Pacific Ocean.

1969 – The Battle of Hamburger Hill in Vietnam ends.

1980 – In a referendum in Quebec, the population rejects by a 60% vote the proposal from its government to move towards independence from Canada.

1983 – First publications of the discovery of the HIV virus that causes AIDS in the journal Science by Luc Montagnier and Robert Gallo individually.

1985 – Radio Martí, part of the Voice of America service, begins broadcasting to Cuba.

1989 – The Chinese authorities declare martial law in the face of pro-democracy demonstrations, setting the scene for the Tiananmen Square massacre.

1990 – The first post-Communist presidential and parliamentary elections are held in Romania.

1996 – Gay rights: The Supreme Court of the United States rules in Romer v. Evans against a law that would have prevented any city, town or county in the state of Colorado from taking any legislative, executive, or judicial action to protect the rights of gays and lesbians.

2002 – The independence of East Timor is recognized by Portugal, formally ending 23 years of Indonesian rule and 3 years of provisional UN administration (Portugal itself is the former colonizer of East Timor until 1976).

Holidays and observances

   * Christian Feast Day:

       Abercius and Helena

       Aurea of Ostia



       Bernardino of Siena

       Ivo of Chartres

       Lucifer of Cagliari


       May 20 (Eastern Orthodox liturgics)

   * Emancipation Day (Florida)

   * European Maritime Day (European Council)

   * Independence Day, celebrates the independence of Cuba from the United States in 1902.

   * Independence Day, celebrates the independence of East Timor from Indonesia in 2002.

   * National Day (Cameroon)

   * National Day of Hatred (Cambodia)

   * World Metrology Day

1 comment

  1. TMC

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